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LENOIR — Blue Ridge Energy announced on Aug. 14 that progress is being made on its utility-scale solar project as it begins approval processes with the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

This new facility will be located on approximately 50 acres in the Granite Falls community of Caldwell County and will produce 19-plus million kilowatt hours of electricity annually that will help control wholesale power cost to keep rates stable for the members served by the cooperative.

Site preparation studies and electrical system impact studies are currently underway, with the county permitting process taking place this fall and winter. Construction is expected to begin in early 2021, with the system completed and online in the summer of 2021.

The project is part of the electric cooperative’s Brighter Future initiative, after which the solar facility is named. The Brighter Future initiative includes a goal of 50 percent carbon reduction by 2030 and net carbon of 0 percent by 2050 by adding solar, reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuel vehicles, battery storage for electricity and special rates and pricing programs for members to encourage energy efficiency.

The purpose of the utility scale solar project is to add additional carbon free solar electricity for member consumption and to help keep rates stable. It may also help the cooperative provide alternative rate options to benefit the membership in the future and help the cooperative manage peak power demands for electricity.

The project joins the cooperative’s five existing community “shared solar” facilities in which members subscribe and receive a credit on their bill based on the output of the facilities. BRE will continue offering its Community Solar option to the members that are interested in seeing a more direct benefit of solar offsetting the actual usage for their home.

“Looking to the decade ahead and beyond, we remain focused on providing you electricity that is reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible,” said Doug Johnson, CEO of the cooperative.

“Utility-scale solar power has become more economical in recent years and is one of the fastest ways to reduce carbon emissions to put our country on the right path to a clean energy future,” he noted.

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